Banff National Park Activity Guides:
Banff National Park Trails:
Banff National Park
Banff National Park Overview
No planes fly into Banff National Park, and motorized vehicles like snowmobiles, ATVs, and helicopters are forbidden. Rather, this UNESCO World Heritage site, Canada's first national park, prides itself on pristine mountains and valleys, glaciers and forests. Mountain peaks stand as high as 13,000 feet, lakes are colored peacock blue and emerald green, and the woods teem with bears, wolves, elk, and other charismatic megafauna.
Begun with the creation of a national reserve around Banff's hot springs, Banff National Park has grown to encompass a 2,656-square-mile chunk of mountainous wilderness about an hour's drive west of Calgary. The Trans-Canada Highway cuts east-west across the park, meeting the Icefields Parkway, which runs north from Lake Louise to Jasper and features 142 miles of high-alpine lakes, snowcapped peaks, and blue glaciers.
Summers mean walking among the dense forests, fishing in gold-medal trout streams, and taking in views of the cathedral peaks of the Canadian Rockies. More than 1,000 miles of trails provide a full range of hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing opportunities. Three downhill ski resorts lie within park boundaries, and two of them—Sunshine Village and Lake Louise—rank among Canada's best ski areas.
The town of Banff is the park's hub and launching the pad for almost every activity. Its landmark hotel, the Fairmont Banff Springs, lends grandeur to the place, continuing to lure royalty and celebrities as it has for more than a century. Banff's main street beckons with more than 200 shops selling everything from hand-knit sweaters to designer fashions, fossils to fudge. Art galleries and museums provide some culture, not to mention a smattering of good bars that get a little wild at night. Just don't get too comfortable in town: There's much to see and do out in the wilderness.
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